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Biophys J. 1995 Jun;68(6):2233-50.

Electrostatic calculations of amino acid titration and electron transfer, Q-AQB-->QAQ-B, in the reaction center.

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Department of Physics, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093, USA.


The titration of amino acids and the energetics of electron transfer from the primary electron acceptor (QA) to the secondary electron acceptor (QB) in the photosynthetic reaction center of Rhodobacter sphaeroides are calculated using a continuum electrostatic model. Strong electrostatic interactions between titrating sites give rise to complex titration curves. Glu L212 is calculated to have an anomalously broad titration curve, which explains the seemingly contradictory experimental results concerning its pKa. The electrostatic field following electron transfer shifts the average protonation of amino acids near the quinones. The pH dependence of the free energy between Q-AQB and QAQ-B calculated from these shifts is in good agreement with experiment. However, the calculated absolute free energy difference is in severe disagreement (by approximately 230 meV) with the observed experimental value, i.e., electron transfer from Q-A to QB is calculated to be unfavorable. The large stabilization energy of the Q-A state arises from the predominantly positively charged residues in the vicinity of QA in contrast to the predominantly negatively charged residues near QB. The discrepancy between calculated and experimental values for delta G(Q-AQB-->QAQ-B) points to limitations of the continuum electrostatic model. Inclusion of other contributions to the energetics (e.g., protein motion following quinone reduction) that may improve the agreement between theory and experiment are discussed.

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